Small Routines and Bremen Birds

Ever since Spring arrived in Bremen – and she was very late – in the mornings when I wake up in the Bremen flat (and the Bremen flat has been the centre point of most of the last three week’s shows), I wander into the kitchen, put the kettle on for coffee, and swing the window open wide. There’s a small park below and, in my weeks here, an already familiar cast of local characters. I love to look out that window, and most recently, to sit on the sill, my back to the green below, the sun above, and the breeze around, and write in my notebook.

My walking route to the nearest main street has changed from the easiest (right and then right) to the prettiest (left, left, right, left-ish) and I like noticing the small routines that form in short periods of time.

The better route includes walking past these knits.

It’s hard to believe it’s down to one remaining performance here in Germany. I’ve had 28 gigs in the last 24 days, which has made for a kind of busy blur with scattered moments of clarity and warmth. So many of the shows have been so lovely, and beyond my expectations – though I had few for my first time here – and just when I think the sweetest, warmest moment has taken place, another one finds me.

I otherwise feel rather out of touch with the world and I have no idea of what’s happening with anyone other than me. It’s is an odd sensation, and boring in ways, but the focus of each day of getting to the venue and doing my job, all the while navigating through foreign landscapes and language, has gobbled me up.

The immersion, despite the blurred edges, has been interesting, and I’m grateful to report that since I last wrote there have been fewer hurdles and greater joys.

There is rather a lot of talking to be done while on tour, but almost entirely is that talking always with someone new. Every day there are so many new connections and small conversations.  I really noticed this on the last two long tours I’ve done, that I have a lot of conversations with new people, which I enjoy, but that I don’t get nearly enough talking in with my “old”, with my nearest and dearest, my closest knits – time zones and timing being the biggest challenge to making that happen. I start to feel it, a kind of backlog of thoughts and feelings, a collection of the little daily stories piling up and getting tangled, a lack of feeling known.

Many people here speak at least a little English. I’ve collected a handful of German phrases but have basically been a fixed post as far as communicating here goes – people have been so generous in moving towards me, when I can’t even meet them halfway. It has impacted telling stories, and really made me think about my stories too. As anyone who’s seen me perform knows, I like to talk about these songs of mine, but here that talking has changed. I speak slower, I tell fewer stories, try to be more succinct, to boil it down. I’ve started to hear my songs more as sounds than words – an entirely new experience since the words have always been the entry point for me – which just makes me think of this: What am I like, if you can’t understand what I’m saying? I’ve liked considering this shift. I like being sounds, smiles and gestures.

And I’ve loved getting to hear Robert Carl Blank on so many nights – he’s a fantastic player and is still, after so many shows together, pulling out songs I haven’t heard yet. Amazing. This past week’s joyful moments have been largely impacted by my friend Diederik van Dijk joining Robert and I here in Bremen.

Diederik and Robert at Kito.

After playing solo so much these past few months, it was SO wonderful to have Diederik on cello for a few songs, goodness me, and also to hear his songs again. It’s been 8 years since we last played together and he is one of the “old” – I’m glad for a few days of finding ground in conversation with someone who knows me. I needed it.

And need it still. But I fly home on Monday, just two sleeps and one gig away, and so very soon I will fall back into the warmth and comfort of familiar. I love the newness of touring, I’ve definitely loved this tour in particular, for all its ups and downs, but just thinking of my own bed now is going to bring me sweet dreams here tonight.

And tomorrow morning, one more perch on the kitchen window sill, one more chorus of Bremen birds to write by.

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